The Magnificent Monarch Art Trail in South Walton Florida
September 20, 2022 by Kurt Lischka
The Monarch Art Trail (MAT) is an outdoor sculpture project created by the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA) with support from The St. Joe Community Foundation (StJCF). The art trail honors the magnificent Monarch Butterfly and it's amazing flight ability of up to 2,700 miles and its generational migratory pattern route through SoWal.
The eastern North American monarch population is notable for its annual southward late-summer/autumn migration from the northern and central United States and southern Canada to Florida and Mexico.During the fall migration, monarchs cover thousands of miles, with a corresponding multigenerational return north. The offspring mysteriously know the migration pattern of their ancestors.
The art trail includes eight sculptures designed for installation along South Watersound Parkway’s (open Google map) paved mile-long path that connects Highway 98 and Scenic 30A. The sculptures are complemented with seating, lighting, signage, and our native landscape. Additionally, the Otocast phone app provides insight into the artists’ creative process through audio, text, and geo-locators. Use of the area was made possible by The St. Joe Company and it's adjacent Watersound Camp Creek community with Watersound Club amenitities, including the Camp Creek Golf Course.
SoWal Insider Tip: Make time to also include a visit to the fun and fabulous outdoor art at Rosemary Beach and along the Alys Beach Art Trail. Of special interest to kids and adults is Turtle Bale Green in Alys Beach with sea turtle sculptures and fountain.
A good place to park is just north of the art trail, across Hwy 98 at Watersound Town Center which has events, dining and shopping. On the south end of the trail is the Seacrest community, Alys Beach, and the new Kaiya Beach Resort - all along the east end SoWal Beaches. Almost all of the adjacent area is our beautiful natural coastal forest and wetlands habitat. You'll see lots of local plants, trees, birds and butterflies. Much of the landscaping around the sculptures was thoughtfully planted with attracting butterflies in mind. The sculptures are numbered 1-8 from south to north but starting from either direction is just fine. We'll start with sculpture number one - click on the title link to read more about the artist.
1. Dancing Monarchs by Peter Hazel - a 12-foot tall sculpture of monarch butterflies resting on vine-like plants growing out of the ground. The vines are made out of steel and the butterflies are thick glass and mosaic tile. The butterflies face all directions and are equally beautiful from all directions.
2. Friend of Mine by Andrew Hamilton Reiss - a contemporary composition of a stylized Monarch Butterfly feeding on a milkweed flower. The elegant composition is defined through a distinct line gesture made of formed steel rod. The sophisticated sculpture provides many interesting vantages of the surrounding landscape. The gesture and composition invite the viewer to interact with the art and experience it in-the-round.
3. Roost and Puddle by Anthony Heinz May - The sculptural concept uses up-cycled dead/dying tree waste from log material salvaged from Parks and Recreation services and (or) as located through public/civic stewardship. Through an offsite process of physical pixelation, the artist prepared wood disks of material taken from logs that are then cut into cubes and drilled to be installed on site using armatures of steel rebar embedded in the natural trunk base for the cubes to appear dissolving off its natural growth pattern. Sculpture materials have no negative ecological impact on the environment they are installed in, and become extensions of nature and natural cycles found there.
4. The Golden Flight by Rachel Herring - The sculpture is inspired by the Golden Spiral. The Golden Spiral is a logarithmic spiral whose growth factor is φ, the golden ratio. The spiral gets wider (or further from its origin) by a factor of φ for every quarter turn it makes. Many objects in nature appear with the golden spiral. Some examples are the shell of a nautilus, the rotations of hurricanes, the growth pattern of leaves on succulents, and the design in which sunflower seeds grow within a sunflower. The main part of the sculpture consists of 10 pieces of stainless steel bands formed into the shape of the Golden Spiral. Once in place, the spirals create the impression of different pieces of nature, from a wave, to shells, and most notably, wings.
5. Kaleidoscope by Jonathan Burger - a twelve-foot tall figure made of 304 stainless steel butterflies. The artwork references the yearly migration of the Monarch, and their survival technique of roosting together in trees to survive temperature drops. While individually the monarch would not be able to live through the winter, by combining their body heat, they are able to weather it. This same technique is used by us humans on a grander scale, by creating societies that allow us to pool our resources and help each other. It is only through this process of pooling resources and acting as a community that we advance our societies to this point, and continue to advance them in the future.
6. The Milkweed King by Mark Metz - a playful representation of the Monarch Butterfly during the caterpillar phase of its lifecycle. Designed to bring a smile, the larger-than-life, friendly caterpillar with sunglasses is built in such a way to create a photo opportunity as his tail will function as a perch to sit on. Constructed from sturdy and durable forged iron, stainless steel, and copper, this rotund and huggable resident of the park is human-scale, standing between four and five feet tall, nestled between large leaves of Asclepius, aka the common milkweed. "the inspiration for The Milkweed King comes from a neighbor of mine who propagates milkweed and shares the seeds and seedlings with people all over the country," Mark says. While Monarchs in flight are marvelous and spectacular, without the milkweed that feeds the caterpillars, there would be no butterflies at all.
7. The Grandchildren Return by Grace Cathey - The piece represents the life stages and metamorphosis all living things go through. The natural surroundings of SoWal sustain the monarchs and strengthen them for their journey. In turn, they share the secrets of our special place with future generations and the “grandchildren” return. In the same way the monarch is able to survive and thrive in the warm climate and on the indigenous flora of Northwest Florida, so too are the people of the area able to flourish through the education, inspiration, and beauty the arts provide. The grandchildren of future generations, like the monarchs, will have their lives enriched and strengthened.
8. Tetelestai with Butterfly by Jeffie Brewer - a coated steel sculpture, the piece is inspired by one of the artist's favorite poems, Tetélestai by Conrad Aiken of Savannah, GA. Tetelestai is Greek for “it is finished”. The artist invites viewers to reflect on both the poem and the sculpture.
SoWal Insider Tip: in celebration of monarch butterflies, local arts, SoWal nature, and the kid inside all of us - be sure to catch the Flutterby Art Festival held in November each year at Watersound Town Center.